Silent PC Review is dedicated to reviews, news and information about acoustics of computers and components, as well as their energy efficiency and thermal performance.

SPCR featured in Vancouver paper, The Georgia Straight

A while ago, someone suggested contacting Dave Watson, the tech columnist at a local paper (in Vancouver, BC, Canada where I live), to see if he'd write up something about SPCR, maybe bring more exposure to the site. So I did, an interview ensued, and here's the result in the Georgia Straight.

About the paper: "Established as the lifestyle and entertainment weekly in Vancouver for over 30 years, the Georgia Straight is an integral part of the active urban West Coast lifestyle with a per issue readership in excess of 369,000."

The University of BC anechoic chamber student project mentioned at the end of the article is happening! I have the role of an "industry consultant" (or some such thing) for 3 final-year mechanical engineering students who are examining DC fans (noise / airflow / vibes @ various voltages) used in PCs. They are guided by Prof. Murray Hodgson, UBC's specialist in acoustics and the manager of their anechoic chamber.

I've doggedly pursued this one for most of 2002. Finally! Thankfully, some corporate sponsors have promised support for this project by way of funds as well as equipment and materials. Naturally, results from this project will be published here at SPCR on an ongoing basis.

Zalman releases Fanless VGA heatsink ZM80-HP

It seems that Zalman has finally released their long awaited fanless heatpipe GPU cooler, the ZM80-HP. With cooling fins on both sides of the card, there is hope that this new cooler can run the hottest GPUs completely fanless. It's available from SPCR sponsor Silicon Acoustics for ~US$40.

Nasty CPU-Burn Bug in Microsoft Word!

Reader Matt Richards wrote in this morning about a nasty anomalie in Microsoft Word that pushes CPU usage to 100 percent "if the background spell checking option in the Works 2000 word processor is selected," according to a MS Knowledge Base article. His well documented letter is of interest to all WORD users. Just click on READ MORE to read his letter.

New Ultra Low Voltage Celeron 400

It's like turning the clock back a few years. Intel just announced a New Ultra Low Voltage Celeron running at 400 MHz "for fanless, small form-factor embedded computing applications." This is obviously the same market occupied by the VIA C3, the EPIA platform, and the Transmeta. The 0.13 micron, 256 KB cache ULV Celeron appears to be a socket 370 variant called uFCBGA or BGA2 and runs on just 0.95 volts. Maximum power dissipation is a measely 4.2W, less than half that produced by the latest C3s. It is priced at US$38 in 1000 lots. It will be interesting to see what developers do with boards for the new cool kid on the block.

Rusty's Quiet In-Desk PC

Do-It-Yourself Systems
Computing enthusiast Rusty took a wholly different approach to the issue of PC noise: he built his right into the desk! While it may not make the big computing companies scramble to define a new desk (not desktop) form factor, Rusty's inventive techniques will surely have quiet computing enthusiasts poring over his fine work. His article is a preliminary work, mostly a visual exposition; the author hopes to fill out the details in time.

Via Eden & C3 Futures

Coverage about the VIA Eden (Mini-ITX) platform from CeBIT 2002 in Hannover at Digit-Life. Also at Digit-Life, Eden and C3 CPU roadmaps for the next year, from the Via Technology Forum in Taipei last week: By Q3 2003, the ESP processors used in Eden are expected to reach 1GHz and higher. While Eden development seems assured, Digit-Life conjectures whether the C3 will be dropped now that Intel has officially phased out socket 370. Still, in Q4 this year VIA plans to ship 1GHz Nehemiah-based C3 processors supporting MMX and SSE1. 1.1/1.2/1.3/1.4 GHz products are scheduled for the next year.

Pandora offer "Quietest PC you'll never hear"

"The quietest PC that you'll never hear" is the slogan for the Tranquility™ Mini-Tower by Panadora Digital Media Systems, a young California firm that offers online purchasing. The Tranquility™ features read like one of our projects -- cool VIA C3 processors, high efficiency heatsinks, quiet thermal fans, NoVibes-suspended Barracuda drives with side heatsinks (they've been reading SPCR carefully) and other neat details. It looks like a good, very quiet, ready-made solution. You might also want to check out Pandora's simply-named BigBox & SmallBox, described as the lowest cost networked data storage servers for home and office use.

Intel's new Thermal/Fan Control Motherboards

Intel's announcement today about the release of 4 new chipsets and 6 new motherboards failed to mention that all these boards utilize the ADI 1027 dBCool thermal control chip mentioned in our IDF coverage report. Intel says their Precision Cooling Technology provides these benefits:

  • Fan speeds adjust real time according to system temperatures
  • Reduces unnecessary noise & energy consumption
  • OS-independent – not affected by a software failure or virus
  • Separate thermal zones for CPU & system temperature
  • Default setting programmed into BIOS
  • Controlled by an advanced management ASIC
  • Vantec's "Stealth" 420W Power Supply

    Power
    Heatsink maker Vantec branched out with their new line of high power "Stealth" power supplies recently. We put their 420W model, the VAN-420A, through its paces with all 3 of its fan blazing. An unfortunate accident with our new PSU Load Tester addition to our test bench blew up one sample but did not set any blazes. Read the Vantec 420A PSU review here.

    OCZ Claims Eliminator Heatsink "Eliminates" fan!

    OCZ's pitch: "By using a heatsink constructed of 100% skived copper, the P4 Eliminator can keep your P4 running cool, "eliminating" the need for a fan! The P4 Eliminator utilizes high grade copper and large surface area to effectively reduce the extreme thermal temperatures associated with Intel Pentium 4 processors." I personally do not think this heatsink can sufficiently cool a P4 without a fan, but the large fully copper surface area may allow cooler operation of hot P4 cpu's even with quieter, slower spinning fans.

    NEC brings Mate computer to US market

    We reported on the small, silent NEC Mate back in May. At the time, the model was only available in Japan. Looks like that has changed. The computer is now available from NEC America in a new, eco-friendly design. Relying on an external power supply and a 900MHz Transmeta Crusoe chip, this computer looks to be a great choice for silent office computing.

    Hard Drive Roundup at Hardware Analysis

    A roundup review of "all recent 5400 and 7200-rpm harddisks from IBM, Maxtor, Western Digital, Seagate and Samsung with a focus on noise and heat production as well as overall performance." This is an interesting review by Hardware Analysis, a site that is new to us. The noise measurements are credible, though non-standard and appears to consider only idle noise (nitpick: the decibel scale is not well-explained). No surprises for SPCR readers: Seagate Barracuda IVs come out best in the quiet department, with a big margin over other 7200rpm drives.

    A silent & musical in-vehicle Mini-ITX PC

    Yet another Mini-ITX project! Reader "burnin" built a PC around an VIA EPIA 800 Mini-ITX board and installed it in his car to play music.

    With the hardware and software that is available today it is easy to create a PC to install in a vehicle to play all your music files from a hard drive.

    PC in a Breadbox

    Do-It-Yourself Systems
    The marriage of a VIA EPIA 5000 Mini-ITX based system and a translucent blue breadbox from IKEA results in a small desktop PC that looks like a cousin to the iMac. Naturally it is extremely quiet, having only one fan at 4.3V (in the flex-atx Seasonic PSU) and a single platter Seagate Barracuda IV suspended with elastic. Read about the PC in a Breadbox.

    Shuttle SS40G HTPC Case Mod

    Anyone interested in Home Theater PCs should definitely check out this case mod that integrates a 7" widescreen LCD with a Shuttle SS40G. The resulting solution allows the HTPC to be controlled without disturbing the video to the projector, or simply to watch movies on the LCD screen itself. Very slick modification.